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SLU wants to give hypothermia to those with brain injuries

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By Julie Bierach, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – A study at St. Louis University will aim to determine whether patients with acute brain injuries heal better while in a state of mild hypothermia.

Doctors will induce hypothermia on patients between the ages of 16 and 45 by lowering their body temperature to 91-degrees within two hours of the injury.

Researchers say the unconventional use of hypothermia is a promising therapy to treat severe brain injuries. They say there's acecdotal evidence, including stories of people who can survive under water much longer in the winter.

"If you get them out of the water after five minutes in the summer, the injury to the brain tissue is irreversible at that point," said research coordinator Brent Ibata.

"In the winter if someone falls through the ice you have up to thirty minutes or an hour if the persons younger to get them and you can still effectively resuscitate them with minimal brain injury."

Researchers are currently seeking community approval to waive 'informed consent.' That would be granted only if the next of kin can't be located.

"They'll induce hypothermia to try to reduce the injury associated with the stroke. Cardiac patients that go into surgery are sometimes cooled down. But for traumatic brain injuries there have been no pivotal study, added Ibata. "This is the pivotal study."

Once the patient is brought in and deemed eligible, doctors will induce hypothermia within two hours of the injury.

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